15 minutes with Kelela


On how she hopes to change the world.

Kelela may be a musician, but she is also a philosopher. Read any interview with this elusive and intelligent artist and you’ll know why I was eager (and cautiously curious) to chat to her about the brilliant new album, Take Me Apart.

This is a woman who has philosophised about relationships with Pitchfork, and tackled racism and oppression with Fader. A woman who has courted platitudes from Solange Knowles for her music and told Complex about her plans to infiltrate the mainstream with something a little more subversive.

I was intimidated, to say the least. However, Kelela was open, warm and eager to share her perspectives on how she hopes to change the world, and music, from within.

Take Me Apart is an emotional ride. Was it your intention to deconstruct yourself in order to create the record? 

Intentions are quite abstract and open-ended. I just wanted to create something that was equally gratifying and challenging at the same time. Hoping it would resonate with people, and also make them think. That’s the only thing I really had in my head before[hand]. Because I’m writing to heal and to feel better, a byproduct of that is having a record of tracks where I’m unloading a lot.

Did you find that process uncomfortable at all? 

Because my craft is so collaborative, and I have to be sharing daily, it makes [the process] not so weird. Or painful. Quickly, you get over it, because it’s way more gratifying to get over it then to be uncomfortable.

You seem to explore a few different genres on this album. How have your inspirations impacted your decision to move beyond the traditional RnB or electronic genres?

I think I just always wanted to make music that is reflective of the things I like… I try to find the place that is really intersectional – the place inbetween is what I always wanted to articulate. It’s more about wanting to create a home for me and my peers… trying to be inside something, not outside something.

You’ve toured with The XX before, and you’re about to go on tour with them again. Tell us about that relationship.

Well, I worked with Romy [Madley Croft] on the record – and that was the first time I’d ever intersected with The XX. It was through her. She writes from poetry, and I write from melody and it’s the perfect pairing in terms of complementary parts. In terms of an experience, it’s all so easy.

So you’re headed to Australia. What are you keen to see more of over here?

The first time I came, I did a couple of festivals and one headline show. I’m excited to be more deliberate about working with more people of colour, as much as possible. There are definitely ways that we can be more mindful as artists – that respects the context that we’re coming to.

Everywhere I go, the darker you are, the more you’re suffering. I can’t stand to go to a place where I see people of colour struggling, and then perform to a room full of white people. I’m going to do all the things that I can do… so that people of colour can connect with it if they want to.

Have you ever considered collaborating with Indigenous Australians? They have such an incredibly rich musical culture that is really unique.

Yes, I have. I’m kind of figuring that out right now, designing that for myself so that I have an idea of how I can do that… It’s [about] perspective. So the way that I’m coming through isn’t just about music, it’s about life.

I have one question left – and I wanted to ask you this. If your album is about taking yourself apart, deconstructing your experience has the process of making the album helped you heal?

Yeah. The process of writing every song helps me heal – and every day is a different type of healing. Sharing it live is another feeling. It’s a lot of healing. It’s a lot of feels. That’s why I’m writing, and it’s also why I’m being creative in the world, you know?

Take Me Apart is out now via Inertia Music.


This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 174. You can read it here.

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